By: Lauren Sampson, MPT

Did you know that 20-40% of employees suffer from work related musculoskeletal dysfunctions and contribute to an estimated 40% of workman’s comp claims. Some studies suggest that there are 70,000 days of lost work per year in the United States due to work related musculoskeletal issues. Ergonomic assessment and adjustments are important for individual benefits and safety, which benefits the entire group or employer.

What is Ergonomics? Fitting a job to an employee based upon desired work to be completed, equipment assessment and adaptation along with creating a work environment that helps prevent work related musculoskeletal imbalances or pain.

In general, you combine assessment and adaptations for task design with machine design and human factors to maximize your safety and activity tolerance to complete your job.

There are some general concepts for promoting safety and well being in an office setting:

  • Feet should be flat on the floor and in full contact with the floor or any supported/elevated surface
  • Hips and knees should be at a 90/90 position
  • Support for lumbar region in the chair
  • Neutral alignment of the spine
  • Ears should be aligned over your shoulders – avoid a forward head position
  • Elbows should be resting at your side at approximately a 90 degree angle; wrists in a neutral position
  • Computer monitor should be an arm length away with eyes level with the top of the monitor

Movement is key. No matter how perfectly a desk or chair is positioned – you have to move and change positions regularly to avoid stiffness. Frequent microbreaks – which can include stretching at your desk or standing up to walk to the printer – are important thru a work shift.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the stretches and movements that might be helpful. Always remember to start any exercise program slowly and carefully. A referral to see a physical therapist for individual assessment and education is always an option as well.

Neck stretches:

  • Side bend
  • Rotation
  • Side bend plus rotation

Postural stretches or stretches to promote circulation:

  • Wrist stretches
  • Shoulder shrugs
  • Trunk extension

Seated cat/cow stretch with diaphragmatic breathing

  • Knee to chest
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Ankle circles

Standing exercises:

  • Trunk side bend with hands behind head
  • Calf stretch
  • Standing weight shift right and left